Bookshot #144: The Way of Kings

I figured if I liked Mistborn, I would probably like The Stormlight Archive, so without too much

hesitation, I plunged into the first book of what's planned to be ten volumes (ten volumes? Dear God) of The Stormlight Archive and almost immediately regretted it.

That's not to say it wasn't a good book. It was. And I'm sure- or at least I'm fairly sure- that once Sanderson has completed all ten volumes of this bad-boy then this series is probably going to give The Wheel of Time a run for it's money in terms of it's place on the Mount Rushmore of fantasy writing. Keeping in mind the epic nature of what I'm going to assume is a very, very, very, very long form story (and throw in a few more 'verys' since this first book is 1,024 pages long) I was willing to grade The Way of Kings on a curve. Sanderson's got a ton of groundwork to lay for the volumes ahead and it's pretty obvious that's what a large portion of this book was about- but at the same time...

Dear God, man, can you just get to the point already?

The story opens with an assassin clad in white, Szeth, who is a Shin man who has been cast out by his people and condemned to obey multiple masters who send him to do their biddings- usually assassinations. In this case, he's killing King Gavilar- King of Alethkar, one of the most powerful nations of the world of Roshar. He's got an Honorblade (a blade used by the mythical Heralds to cut through any material) and he's also got the power of surgebinding- a power once possessed by the Knights Radiant (again mythical- or are they?) making him tough to overcome in battle.

As a direct result of this, Gavilar's son Elhokar forms the Vengeance Pact with the other High Princes of Alethkar and goes to war agains the Parshendi, whom he believes responsible for the death of his father and that brings us to all the other characters.

Highprince Dalinar Kholin is troubled. The war is dragging on against the Parshendi and he's tormented by visions that make him doubt his own sanity- and the other High Princes who saw him as the King's brother, the mighty warrior Blackthorn are trying to exploint that perceived weakness to move against him-- but Dalinar finds answers that potentially change the game moving into Book 2.

Kaladin is a darkeyed soldier who hated light-eyed nobles and I'm guessing he's going to be important going forward because we get flashback after flashback filling in the details of his life- how he was being trained to be a surgeon but secretly wanted to be a soldier. How he came to accept that he should go and be a surgeon only to up going to war anyways to protect his brother, Tien- ultimately unsuccessfully. This drives him to try and become a better fighter to protect as many people as he can and he eventually ends up defeating an enemy Shardbearer, which gives him the right to take the Shardplate and Shardblade, but e refuses and the Highlord of the Army, who covets such things for himself, steals them and brands Kaladin as a slave to hide the theft-which hardens his hatred of the lighteyed nobility. He ends up a bridgeman in the ongoing war against the Parshendi- serving as little mroe than cannon fodder as they run bridges down to the great chasms in the hills and serve as targets for the enemy until more experienced and trained soldiers can make it across to the fighting. He's close to despair but finds new purpose in bringing his bridge crew together and finds out he too, has the power of surgebinding.

Shallan (who really has the most fascinating subplot in this very, very, very long book) is a minor light-eyed woman whose family and lands are in danger and is trying to steal a Soulcaster- which allows people to change objects to other things, like, money in her case) and Jasnah Kholin, sister of the Alethi King has a working one. Shallan gets herself appointed as Jasnah's ward and becomes her apprentice- and she successfully steals the Soulcaster only to find out the secret behind soulcasting isn't what she expected at all.

As always with Sanderson, the level of world building and the details behind it is absolutely insane. I have a feeling that the bulk of the work is probably in building his world- and once you've got all the rules and dimensions and boundaries and everything else sorted out, the story probably flows fairly easily after that. (I don't know this for sure, but I have a feeling that's probably the case- I mean, for a given value of easy, that is.) Roshar or the world of Stormlight is more complicated and complex than Mistborn-- there's a caste system based on eye color and there's levels of the caste system that govern society- or nahns, as they're called .Each country seems to have it's own distinct culture/feel/biological characteristics-- Parshendi are described as having red and black marbled skin, which is unusual and feels a little bit... provocative given the amount of slavery that features in this first book. The Shin (the race of Szeth the Assassin) don't walk on stone- or try not to, anyway, as they consider it a great sin. There's dozens of little touches like that- and of course, Sanderson being Sanderson, the magic system and mythology behind the Voidbringers and the Knights Radiant is insanely well developed and you're given a very thorough explanation about how it all works as well. 

So Sanderson remains amazing with world building and detailed mythology and magic systems. Great stuff, excellent well done, etc-- that being said:


I get it- ten planned volumes, you've got a hell of a lot of ground to cover, but it means that this book has so many chapters that just drag on and on and on and on and on and on and just when you think you're getting to something mildly interesting, Sanderson shifts to another point of view character- and then, suddenly about page 700 or so, things trip into fast forward and start coming together. As with Mistborn, once stuff starts to happen, it happens in a hurry- so despite your frustrations at the endless flashbacks and digressions and things that you just don't understand when you're reading them in the book at a certain point they all come together in- of course, a fairly satisfactory way.

Overall: Kind of a slog in parts, but Sanderson's good at this. If you can make it to then end, you'll be hooked and ready for the next one. My Grade: *** out of ****


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